Dear Steven Moffat: Asylum of the Daleks

Dear Steven,

I’m back! Did you miss me? I visited your humble hovel early last week, hoping to have a pre-season chat. You know, shooting the shit while munching on Sontaran themed chocolate teacakes, that kind of thing. I accept that tears up the understanding between your lawyers and mine, but I can’t believe you’re still angry with me, not now. I returned your kids didn’t I? I was just a little upset, y’know, what with the news that this season would see you write out Amy Pond, the feminoid that gives my otherwise empty existence meaning and purpose. It was an overreaction, I see that now, but I think your tadpoles enjoyed their weekend, tied to the underside of Waterloo Bridge, watching the boats pass below. Ask them, they’ll tell you.

Anyway, I came knocking and was impressed by what you’d done with the place. The additional locks are a nice touch, so too the electrified wire mesh over the windows. I also liked the mock TARDIS doors that have replaced your old front entrance and the Dalek statues either side of the pathway. What a nice, self-indulgent touch.

You weren’t in, you may remember. I briefly spoke to your wife though. What an odd lady, denying you’re still resident. The sad look in her eyes suggested that you weren’t happy, despite all media reports to the contrary. As I looked deep into your spouse’s puss, I wondered if you’d missed our weekly correspondence in the last year. Perhaps, you reasoned, Dr Who meant very little without it. So, despite my better judgement, because I’m a very busy man, Steven, I’m recommitting finger to key to give you the guidance and insight, the addendum to your labours, which has become invaluable to you; essentially the blade that sharpens your creative faculties. With that in mind, let’s point our eye stalks at this week’s opener, Asylum of the Daleks.

For me this was the curtain up that promised little and delivered much. When first I heard you’d be reintroducing the automatous murder droids, I had a moment. You might call it necrosis of the soul. I never doubt you, even when I loathe you, but it seemed to me that after a season in which you were heavily criticised for experimentation, rolling a boulder into the calm lake of audience expectation, you’d been cowed.

Reports that the artists formally known as Kaleds would be back to do their genocidal shtick, that each episode would stand alone, perhaps be more straightforward, made my spleen swell to twice its normal size. I felt like a debonair, more sexually potent version of Dan Ashcroft from Nathan Barley; “the idiots are winning!” But Asylum wasn’t the episode I’d feared. It didn’t ignite a series long arch like last year’s Impossible Astronaut and it wasn’t as fresh, feeling like your favourite jumper with a few new patches sown in, but one important seed was planted, an early Christmas present you might say, and there were gilded touches aplenty. Yes, this was solid without being stolid.

Before we get to the mind fuck material – mecha-loons, Dalek zombies and meeting The Doctor’s new companion long after she’d died, let’s talk about fleeting hope. Amy’s not long for this series but praise Davros, she’d finally seen sense and ditched that limp, feckless, guileless martyr that passes for her husband. Though you didn’t allude to it directly, or at all, I inferred the real schism in their relationship had occurred because of a yearning she felt deep inside; the dream she couldn’t disclose, i.e. her need for a man who looked and sounded a lot like yours truly. Perhaps she’d seen me during my incarceration in the Land of Fiction and it was love at first lech. I went out with a Scottish woman once; I have an affinity with them, like I have with cats, so of course she’d be drawn to me: an Englishman with cut glass vowels and a spine (or similar). Oh, my poor baby! Forced into space with this supine, boorish ex of hers. You’re a cruel man, Steven. Why must you make my darling suffer so?

Once Amy began to go insane, as people often do in Asylums, and spoke of her ruined womb, I became nigh on inconsolable. My feline companion Rupert found himself used as a furry sponge, soaking up the tears. Still, the theme of madness, of dreams that were increasingly indistinguishable from reality, was potent, and touching in that final, typically tricksy reveal of yours. Poor Oswin: a beautiful, occasionally irritating girl that got the full Locutus, and now has the ultimate form of locked in syndrome. There’s something oddly touching about someone saying “remember me” in that wretched, robotic drawl. What a tragic, touching moment.

Still, I could stomach more of her, if she can reign in the over familiarity. When she looked at us, pleading that we keep her in mind, as she’ll be back in a new guise, later/earlier in the run, I stood ready to take her on. No girl can replace my Amy of course but when the love of your life takes flight, transforming you into a broken husk, you can either spend years contemplating suicide, forging dead end emotional ties to porn stars, as I did, or you can say, ‘okay, I’m ready for a new woman in my life’. I’m not there quite yet, Steven, but I know the moment’s coming and I’m preparing myself for it.

So, was I satisfied? I know you can’t sleep until you’re certain. Well, broadly, yes. I can’t hide my continued irritation at Rory’s survival. He’s clearly indestructible, a point underlined by the fact that he can avoid death in a room full of pepperpot psychopaths who only live to kill. The Daleks, for all their big talk, are clearly galactic imbeciles. Am I really supposed to be intimidated by a gang of aliens that can’t finish off the kind of guy who probably owns a Harry Potter pillowcase, in a tiny room?

Still, I was pleased that you closed a self-created plot hole by episode’s end. Having fooled the universe into thinking he was a goner, I wondered whether the Daleks’ knowledge of The Doctor’s good health would blow his cover. I’m not suggesting they’re gossips you understand, but you know how word gets around; they were bound to mention they’d seen him to someone. So it was a relief when Oswin Dalek, or whatever her name is, “hacked into the Path Web” and deleted his deets from the master enemy file, or something. It’ll be nice for the slimy Stephen Hawkings to regain some of their confidence and face future encounters with our man sporting new levels of hubris. That, and referring to someone who looks and sounds like Matt Smith as “the predator” is plain ridiculous. Can you imagine him with dreadlocks?

The little touches made the difference on the night, elevating this episode above average. I liked the Dalek suicide bombers; your subtle condemnation of Islamic extremism in Saturday prime time is duly noted and appreciated. So too the satirical barb aimed at the fashion industry and the unpaid interns that fill its ranks. Appendages growing from their foreheads? You said it, old chum. Oh yes and it was nice to see Skaro again. It looks terrible, but then it’s probably winter there, isn’t it?

Not a stellar opener then, not least because it looked as though Amy and Rory were reconciled at the close, but good enough. I just hope you haven’t lost your taste for the slow burn; that is, patience and attentiveness rewarded. Standalone episodes are all well and good but this is a show that works best when it thinks big; after all, in the old days some adventures were 6 episodes long. I don’t say you have to return to that but try and keep it ambitious, for God’s sake.

Interesting ghostly new titles, by the way. Not a hint that all the characters are dead I hope.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

Returned to sender – letters from yesteryear:

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://edwhitfield.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/dear-steven-moffat-asylum-of-the-daleks/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I enjoyed this episode, if only because it had a number genuinely frightening moments, that to me, make for the best Who stories.

    It looks like we’re going to see a lot of self contained stories this series, with very little arc. This doesn’t surprise me, as while Moffat is a strong scenario writer, he’s less inclined to take a theme and run with it (and when he does the results are less than consistent) than Davis. The Pond’s divorce, for example, was introduced and resolved in the space of around 20 minutes, whereas this would take a season and a half to come to fruition in an earlier incaration. On the other hand, there were many occasions in which Davis really needed to get to the fucking point.

    I suppose we’ll see what happens, but the doctor having a future war that we never actually see, and getting pseudo-killed off at the end of last season via means of a massive cop out- my guess is they’re going to rein it in somewhat.

    Also, ideally, I’d like to be in a position in which I stop comparing Moffat with Davis every episode.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: